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2002-08-06 - 4:32 p.m.

Job stuff.

I hate my job.

This may or may not come as a surprise to you. I don't talk about my job much, mostly because I don't want anyone to put two and two together and figure out who I am and the company I work for. Because although I hate my job, I don't hate my paycheck.

Evidently job dissatisfaction is epidemic in the online journal world. Yttralite and Otter are two of my regular reads who are both experiencing career/job/life/angst. Their entries, my email conversations with Otter, and my in-person conversations with my friend AR and The Scientist have crystallized my unhappiness with the way things are going.


It's not like everything is horrible. I'm not being sexually harassed. I'm being adequately compensated for my work. My employer gave me a 10% raise this year, after they let me move to a different city and work remotely out of my apartment, after my company laid off a bunch of people, and after all of the national/worldwide economic downturn stuff. So there's that. I like working with my friend AR, although now that I'm a remote employee we only get to talk on the phone. She's had to pull back from our project because she's overloaded with other projects. It's not her fault, but I feel sort of abandoned and alone, not just in my office environment (or lack thereof) but in my projects. I like my company. I think it's a worthwhile place to work, makes good stuff, and has a lot of opportunities for employees.

When I moved here I got rid of the things most people bitch about with their jobs--having to get up really early, the hour and fifteen minute commute, my annoying officemate, the cafeteria food, and so on. I was left with the pure essence of my job, the work that I do every day (or at least most days). It became clear I was still unhappy. It wasn't just my company or my location or the stuff surrounding my job. It was the work itself.

And what is that, you may ask? Well, I design (and write) online customer documentation. My official title is "information designer and staff software engineer." Sounds fancy, eh? It basically means I write and design the stuff that used to be shipped as a manual and is not delivered via website.

I sort of fell into my major (scientific and technical communication) and after graduating and having a relatively adventurous few years after college (moved to the UK for 6 months, traveled around Europe for 2 months, came back to the U.S., did freelance and temp work) fell into doing for a career the stuff that I studied in school--technical communication and information design, mostly for websites. I didn't particularly love these subjects when I was studying them, but somehow I thought I'd like them more (or at least ought to like them more) when I was working with actual information instead of just class projects and theory. Which is sort of true--I definitely like the practical "doing" side much more than the theoretical side of any given task. But I never fell in love with technical communication or information design as a career.

I try to separate myself, who I am as a person, from what I do for a living, but it's difficult. I am surrounded by people in my family who are doing jobs they love. My aunt is a successful attorney, my uncle is an engineer, my brother is a photographer (although he's still in school), my cousin designs museum exhibits, my other cousin is a graphic and multimedia designer, The Scientist is, well, a scientist and is working towards his dream of being a professor. I feel I have some obligation to live up to my potential.


When I went to Boston to visit M., I spent time with her activist lesbians of color friends. They all had really cool jobs that they loved. They still had job stress and things they didn't like, but fundamentally they wanted to be doing what they were doing--and it was all stuff like running after school programs for kids, working in the prison system helping women get back on their feet and back into the community when they're released, performing music, doing social work, AIDs activism, and so on. Things that seemed to fulfill them on multiple levels.

Also in Boston, I watched Oprah. Now, this isn't a usual occurrence, but M.'s roommate loved Oprah and Dr. Phil and we hung out and watched one afternoon. (FYI, I think Oprah is an amazing woman--she built her career from nothing and runs an enviable media empire now. She and Madonna rock the entertainment world.) Oprah and Dr. Phil were promoting Dr. Phil's new book and talking about "being your authentic self." It sounded kind of hokey to me at first, but then Oprah said, "When you're doing something you love, it doesn't feel like work." It was like a revelation to me. Simple, maybe, but profound. I thought of all the projects I do at home--cataloging my grandmother's china, reorganizing my bookshelves, writing, reading, playing tennis, cooking, researching a new interest, doing web searches to find out random facts--and how these things all take time (sometimes lots of time) and effort (sometimes lots of effort), but I enjoy them. I like doing them. I feel exhilarated when I finish. I don't get that in my job. Even when I finish something I just feel relieved and slightly less burdened then before.

All of a sudden I didn't want to do my job for another second. Of course I am because of that bill paying thing, but it gave me the motivation to start thinking about how to actually make changes.


So I'm looking at graduate programs. Trying to assess my skills. Reading What Color Is Your Parachute?. Trying to figure out what kind of work would speak to my soul as well as my intellect. Sometimes my thoughts seem really far out--what if I went back to school to become a certified nurse midwife? What if I wrote a novel? Sometimes they seem closer to home--what if I went to graduate school and got my MLS (master's of library science)? What if I did information design for a company whose products I actually understood? What if I got a job in a law firm? Sometimes they teeter inbetween--what if we had a kid and I stayed home? What if we bought a house and I did renovation work like Jessie?


It's all very frustrating, though, because I can't do anything about it. We need my paycheck right now to pay for rent, car payments, utility bills, etc. (not to mention cable modem, Netflix, and trips to Marshall Fields). Once The Scientist finds a professor job and we figure out where we're moving, I can start making my changes. What those will be, I'm not sure yet, but I am sure that there will be changes. I don't want to live my life dreading going to work every day. It's not healthy and it certainly doesn't make me happy.

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